Even a second grader can tell manufacturing is cool

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If you ask a typical elementary school student what they want to be when they grow up many will say a firefighter, police officer, teacher, nurse, doctor or NFL player. These are the careers they are exposed to in the media and in everyday life.

When Joe Weitzer, dean of the Center for Business Performance Solutions at Waukesha County Technical College, heard about Manufacturing Day he decided to take his seven-year-old daughter, Angelina, to visit some local companies offering tours.

“I wanted to learn what a child sees and understands about manufacturing,” Weitzer said.

The tours began at Plastic Components, Inc., an injection molder of plastic parts. “What metal do they make?” Angelina asked on the way to the plant. She thought all manufacturing involved metals.

As they observed the process from raw material to finished product, Angelina noticed people typing a lot and only the machines touched the components. She learned manufacturing involves computers and high-tech machines.

The next stop was Tailored Label Products, Inc. “How do you make the paper sticky?” she asked. Their tour guide explained the four-color press and demonstrated the machinery applying laminate and adhesive, and cutting the labels.

“It was a very colorful and clean environment,” Weitzer remarked.

Young visitor tries manufacturing technology. A Stanek employee shows a young visitor how manufacturing technology works.

At Stanek Tool, company President Mary Wehrheim was their tour guide. She took the Weitzers into an engineering area to demonstrate the three-dimensional computer aided design (CAD). Wehrheim showed Angelina the digital drawings and then asked her to point to specific parts on the actual component. Angelina’s dad was astounded at his daughter’s grasp of such concepts.

Next, Wehrheim showed them a CNC machine and allowed Angelina to experiment with the controls. “How important is math?” she asked. This was a thrilling moment for her dad. She was getting it.

At the end of their time at Stanek, Angelina wanted to know if she could bring her whole class next year. The experience made Weitzer think career awareness should begin at a very early age.  Manufacturing can be translated to the level of a seven-year-old and even a second grader can see the connection between education and work.

October is Manufacturing Month.  Manufacturers and technical colleges are exposing more young people to great careers in manufacturing with plant tours and other special events. Find out more at the Manufacturing Month webpage.  How can you be part of Manufacturing Month?